“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin Luther King Jr
I think it is over a year since my last post. In my defence, there has been some personal stuff I have been ‘busy’ with. My marriage ended. My Dad died. I, however, am still here.
The tears, anger, bitterness, resentment, guilt, confusion, loss and sadness have faded, and life goes on. I would like to share some things that helped me through what has been a very difficult time, and who knows, they may come in useful to you at some point in dealing with loss.
It went something sort of like this:
1. Get help!
I went to a counsellor. I needed a safe place with no connections, no judgements and a freedom to talk about whatever details I needed to without worrying about how people may react. There are always some things that people you know don’t need to know.
Talk it through
In the past I would have suppressed my anger so this was a challenge. This time I turned to an unlikely source for assistance. Ha Ha! It was Marilyn Manson’s second full-length album. I played this for about 4 weeks every day in my car at an unhealthy volume and sang, barked, screamed and cried my way through the album over and over. Funnily enough I haven’t listened to the album since. But boy, did it help with the release! Whatever works, right?
Get it out
3. Trust again quickly
This was a hard one for me. When life gives you the enema to end all enemas you tend to tense up for a while. It’s a natural reaction. But something inside me urged me to break away from a habit of not trusting. In a weird sort of way it was easier to do from a place of despair because I didn’t believe I could feel any worse! So I ran with it and it opened up a whole other world for me internally and externally.
Trust in life again, quickly
4. Rely on real friends
Real friends have no agenda, no judgement, aren’t attached to the advice they give, or don’t give advice at all. They are just there for you. I had to allow myself to rely on others and would quite possibly still be stuck without them.
Identify friends, and hang on to them
5. Look for the positives and be grateful
Looking each day at what I was grateful for helped so much. Some of the bigger things were my kids, my family, friends and the genuine caring and generosity of people. And smaller things we sometimes take for granted like the taste of good food, a warm coat on a chilly day, a really good pot to cook in, and laughter when it came.
There is always something to be grateful for
6. Take baby steps, but take action
Small little steps each day took me a long way. I have a really good friend that helped me through this. Little tips like, “just get into your gear and stand on the treadmill. If that’s all you do it is more than yesterday”. And bloody hell, it worked! I progressed to running 30 minutes pretty much every day.
Keep moving forward, no matter how hard
This was my saviour through the anger stage. I put everything into it. The angrier I was the harder I ran: until I ran through it, every day, until it was gone. Having that outlet allowed my body to release it while I worked through the head and heart stuff through other means.
Do anything to make you feel physically stronger
8. Allow time to heal
There are stages to getting over ‘shit’. After the wallowing, self-pitying, woe-is-me phase came impatience and anger with myself for not getting over it quick enough. I had to learn to accept the reality and the feelings I had. To accept that this was here and now, that it would eventually pass, and that it was Ok to just sit with it. I learned that all of that was true.
9. Avoid TV if you want to move on. If you don’t watch more
I took refuge in TV. Too much TV numbs me. It drains energy. It leaves me feeling slovenly after it. Trying to move forward and lift my mood after hours in front of the TV was like trying to get clean bathing in grease. I stopped.
Just getting stuff out of my head on to paper was cathartic and cleared my mind. It is a similar feeling to walking for miles with a backpack on and the relief when you finally take it off and sit down.
Get out of your head (no – not with alcohol)
11. Look gently at the part you played – and learn
I knew there were lessons there but I couldn’t see them at the start. I had to take the other steps above before I was ready to accept the learning. Looking for them at the start was like finding a stick to beat myself with.
Be gentle with yourself
I think that I had to forgive myself first before I could forgive others. Forgiveness really does mean letting go. The memories remain and I don’t forget, but the feelings of loss and hurt are gone. A poignant sadness is all that remains. That is when I knew I had let go and that I had forgiven. The intention to forgive came before the forgiveness and my friend Vishnu talks about intention in a great post on forgiveness.
Let it go
13. Find a purpose
It was important for me to find a reason to move on again. One of the things I did was start to read over my bucket list every morning. I can’t understate the power of this. It gave me purpose and restored hope. I can’t tell you how, I just know that it worked. The idea of a possible life ahead of me where dreams were possible was fuel that I desperately needed. I started to feel an enthusiasm for life again that had eluded me for a very long time.
Dare to hope
14. Don’t worry about the future
There were many things about the future my circumstances could justify me being worried about. However, being in a place where it felt like there was no future made not worrying about it easy. It was quite liberating when looked at in a different way. That has stayed with me.
Believe that whatever happens, things will be OK
Dream again. Like a child, without responsibilities and without limitations. The pictures I painted in the mind brought forth life and opportunity. All that exists is now and what I choose to do with that is entirely up to me.
Dare to dream
How have you dealt with loss in the past? Is there anything you would do differently?